COLUMBIA, S.C. — Two local agencies are vowing major changes and an internal investigation after a teen accused of bringing a gun into Columbiana Mall allegedly smuggled another into a youth detention facility afterward.
The director of the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice said all staff will be retrained after the gun somehow bypassed security checks.
Director Eden Hendrick confirmed in a statement to News19 that staff, on Wednesday, uncovered information that a juvenile in the facility possibly had a weapon. Hendrick said an immediate response by staff uncovered the gun without incident. Authorities later confirmed the weapon was loaded.
Hendrick added that the weapon made its way into the facility through a youth who had been taken in on weapons violation charges from the city of Columbia.
"The youth was patted down, showered, and dressed in facility clothes," Hendrick said.
However, the director also said that the "entire series of events" was preventable.
"We have initiated an immediate review to revamp the entire intake process and are consulting with outside experts," she said.
All staff will also be retrained on intake, search, and safety procedures.
Columbia Police have since confirmed to News19 that the teen in question was recently arrested for possessing a loaded gun at Columbiana Centre mall, calling the fact that he managed to get a gun through their own practices an "egregious failure on many levels."
The department said that a loaded 9mm handgun was confiscated from the teen but another gun went undetected.
"The lack of a thorough search is unacceptable and risked public and officer safety," the department statement said. "Chief Holbrook has directed the Office of Professional Standards to conduct an Internal Affairs investigation regarding the matter."
The arresting officers have been placed on administrative duty pending "remedial training" on handcuffing and searching prisoners.
The Department of Juvenile Justice added that it would also work with law enforcement partners that use the detention center "to prevent contraband from entering our facilities."
Director Hendrick added that "appropriate action" would also be taken with staff and youth involved in the incident. A spokesperson for the agency later clarified that all staff involved had been suspended.
Governor Henry McMaster's Office has also been made aware of the incident and also expressed concern.
"Obviously, it's an unacceptable mistake, but Governor McMaster is confident that Director Hendrick will make the appropriate changes at the agency - and ... work with the agency's law enforcement partners - to ensure that nothing like this happens again," spokesperson Brian Symmes said.